UNI Wrestling Joins Mid-American Conference
Courtesy: UNI Athletics Communications  
Release: Friday 09/19/2012

Cleveland, Ohio - The Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced today the addition of the University of Missouri, the University of Northern Iowa and Old Dominion University as affiliate members in the sport of wrestling.

All three universities have joined the MAC with five-year agreements, with Missouri and UNI joining the MAC for the conference tournament only for the 2012-13 season and then participate fully in regular season and tournament action for the next four consecutive years (2013-14 season thru 2016-17 academic season).  Old Dominion will join the MAC for the regular season and tournament action in the 2013-14 season through the 2017-18 academic season.

The addition of the three affiliate members will increase the MAC wrestling membership to nine members with Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Ohio.  With this increase in wrestling membership, the MAC will become the third largest Division I wrestling league in the nation only behind the Big Ten and the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA).  This move will also provide the conference extended recruiting opportunities from across the Midwest towards the East Coast into Virginia.

"After significant study and discussion by our member institution's coaches and administrators the Mid-American Conference has made a move that will take what is already a very strong wrestling conference and make it one of the elite wrestling conferences in the country," said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference.  "I am pleased to welcome Missouri, Northern Iowa, and Old Dominion, their student-athletes, coaches and fans to the MAC in the sport of wrestling."

Last season Kent State won the MAC regular season title and the previous season witnessed a three-way tie for the MAC regular season title between Kent State, Central Michigan and Ohio.

In 2012, the MAC sent 24 wrestlers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Tournament in St. Louis, where MAC Champion Central Michigan finished tied for 13th and Kent State ended 27th in the NCAA Championship standings.  The MAC witnessed three wrestlers earn All-American honors as Central Michigan's Ben Bennett (184 lb.) earned his third, Kent State's Nic Bedelyon (125 lb.) earned his second and Ohio's Jeremy Johnson (Hwt.) earned his first All-American honor.

In 2011 the MAC last witnessed an individual national champion when Kent State's Dustin Kilgore won the 197 lb. National Championship as he pinned Oklahoma State's Clayton Foster.  Kilgore became the eighth MAC wrestler to win a national championship in conference history.

Central Michigan has won the last 11 consecutive MAC Wrestling Championships dating back to the 2002 season.  In the last five consecutive years, the MAC has witnessed a program finish in the Top 20 at the NCAA Wrestling Championship and twice had two programs finish in the Top 20 -- 2009 (Central Michigan tied-14th; Kent State 18th) and 2011 (Central Michigan tied-13th; Kent State 17th).  The last Top Ten finish by the MAC in the NCAA Wrestling Championship was Central Michigan's seventh place finish in 2008.

Missouri Tigers:

Missouri finished the 2011-12 season ranked 26th in the NCAA final rankings and under head coach Brian Smith captured the Big 12 Tournament Championship, the first title in program history.  The Tigers produced four individual Big 12 Champions and head coach Brian Smith was named Big 12 Coach of the Year.  Missouri led the nation and set a program record by sending ten grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament

Head coach Brian Smith is the winningest coach in program history (173-83-3), entering his 15th season.  Under Smith's direction, Missouri has produced four National Champions (Ben Askren in 2006 and 2007; Mark Ellis in 2009 and Max Askren in 2010), 14 wrestlers have earned 26 All-America honors and three top-10 NCAA finishes (2007-third; 2009-seventh; and 2010-tenth).

Missouri's wrestling program started in 1923-24 and competed in the Missouri Valley Conference from 1928-1932 and the Big 6 Conference from 1932-37.  There was no program from 1938-58 and wrestling returned in 1959.  Missouri competed in the Big 8 from 1964-96 and the Big 12 from 1996-2012.

Quote from Missouri Director of Athletics Mike Alden:

"We're honored that the University of Missouri will have an opportunity to compete in the Mid-American Conference as an affiliate member. The MAC is a highly respected conference and this provides our program the opportunity to continue competing at a very high level. Head Coach Brian Smith has built one of the nation's elite programs and we look forward to seeing them continue towards a National Championship as a member of the MAC."

Quote from Missouri Head Coach Brian Smith:

"I think the Mid-American Conference is a great fit for our program. Over the past several years, some of the nation's top teams and best wrestlers - both on an academic and athletic level - have come from the MAC, and we are excited to help continue that tradition. The league has been proactive in expanding themselves on the wrestling side, and we think our program will help enhance the overall prestige of the conference. We've already built some great rivalries with some of these teams over the past few years, and competing with schools from that area will help us expand our reach on the recruiting trail. We look forward to being part of this great conference."

Northern Iowa (UNI) Panthers:

UNI ended the 2011-12 season ranked 34th in the NCAA final rankings and finished second in the Western Wrestling Conference with a 8-7 record in duals and a 5-1 conference record under head coach Doug Schwab. 

The Panthers sent five grapplers to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament, including Joe Colon (133 lbs.), Levi Wolfensperger (141 lbs.), David Bonin (157 lbs.), Ryan Loder (184 lbs.) and Blayne Beale (HWT).  Colon seeded No. 5 at 133 lbs., and Loder seeded No. 8 at 184 lbs.

UNI has a strong history of success in the sport of wrestling.  UNI captured the 1950 NCAA Division 1 Wrestling National Championship.  The Panthers have crowned 21 NCAA Division I individual national champions, the latest being Tony Davis at 149 lbs. in 2000, and have tallied 115 NCAA Division I All-Americans.  UNI's Bill Smith captured an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.  Since rejoining the Division I ranks in 1981, UNI has notched 20 Top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships.

Quote from UNI, Director of Athletics, Troy Dannen:

"The transition of our wrestling program to the Mid-American Conference will serve our student-athletes well. With a history of 21 Division I individual national champions and a Division I team champion, the ability of UNI wrestling to associate with schools committed to national prominence is important to our institution and our student-athletes. We look forward to expanded post-season qualification opportunities and dual meet competition with the other eight programs in the league.  Mid-American Conference institutions are well known to our fan base, and we eagerly look forward to competing in the league. The ability to make this announcement marks a great day in the history of Panther wrestling."

Quote from Northern Iowa, Head Coach, Doug Schwab:

"UNI wrestling looks forward to the opportunity to compete in the MAC.  We are excited to make new and lasting rivalries for our athletes and fans. With the teams that exist and the ones joining the conference, it will make the MAC one the premier wrestling conferences in the country. The student-athletes, coaches, alumni and fans look forward to building on Northern Iowa's wrestling's history with the MAC."

Old Dominion Monarchs:

Old Dominion concluded the 2011-12 season ranked No. 24 in the final regular season NCWA poll and ranked third in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) under head coach Steve Martin.  The Monarchs earned a school record seven bids to the 2012 NCAA Championship Wrestling Tournament, which was tied for fourth nationally and the most of any school from the CAA.

During the 2011-12 season, Old Dominion had the fifth highest GPA, including Tristan Warner had the second highest cumulative GPA in the nation among all wrestlers.

Under the direction of coach Martin, the Monarchs have earned an All-American in four of the last five years. Martin has the second-highest winning percentage (.640) in school history and has earned double-digit wins in seven of his eight seasons. Martin has directed 35 NCAA qualifiers, 13 individual CAA Champions and was named the CAA Coach of the Year in 2008.  Also, 12 Monarch wrestlers have been named to the NWCA All-Academic National Honor Roll in the last five seasons.

The Old Dominion wrestling program began in 1957-58 and were members of the CAA since the 1991-92 season.  The Monarchs have produced three National Champions, 94 NCAA qualifiers all-time, 18 wrestlers have earned 25 All-America honors, 31 individual CAA Champions, six CAA Wrestler of the Year Awards and two CAA Rookie of the Year Awards in program history.

Quote from Old Dominion, Director of Athletics, Dr. Camden Wood Selig:

"Old Dominion is very pleased to be joining one of the nation's premier wrestling conferences in the Mid-American Conference," said Selig. "We are extremely grateful to the MAC Council of Presidents and league Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher for providing this wonderful, competitive opportunity to our student-athletes and coaches. Participating in the MAC will elevate the national and competitive profile of Old Dominion's wrestling program and we look forward to this new opportunity for our program."

Quote from Old Dominion, Head Coach, Steve Martin:

"We are extremely excited about joining the Mid-American Conference," said Martin. "This is a game changer for our program and will allow us to compete at the highest level in wrestling. The additions of Missouri and Northern Iowa, along with the strong base of current schools in the MAC, will make this one of the most formidable wrestling leagues in the country. I'd like to thank MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher for the opportunity as well Athletic Director Dr. Selig and Senior Associate Athletic Director Deb Polca for their work in making this happen for the Old Dominion wrestling program."

Quotes from current MAC Head Wrestling Coaches:

Jim Beichner, Head Coach, Buffalo:

"Adding Missouri, Old Dominion and Northern Iowa to the Mid-American Conference is just another positive indicator that our conference office is leading our wrestling programs in the right direction.  All three of these programs are excellent academic institutions with great history and traditions and are fully committed to the sport of wrestling.  I believe that the strength of our conference is determined by the strength of our teams and I am happy to say that today, we have become one of the premiere wrestling conferences in the nation. As a coach, I am very happy to welcome all three programs to the Conference." 

Tom Borrelli, Head Coach, Central Michigan:

"This is a great move forward for the Mid-American Conference. It is going to be nice to develop new relationships with universities and athletic departments. The addition will create more opportunities to get more athletes to the NCAA tournament and it will foster our development to do well in that tournament. Anytime competition gets keener, everyone rises to that level of competition."

Derek Delporto, Head Coach, Eastern Michigan:

"I am very happy to welcome three top wrestling programs into our conference.  Every MAC program will get stronger with the addition of these programs."

Jim Andrassy, Head Coach, Kent State:

"We're excited to bring in some new teams and have some new opportunities.  It gives us more guaranteed home meets and it also helps us get more dual meets for the year, which is the direction the NCAA is going in as a whole.  The MAC's been a tough conference over the past few years and this makes us even tougher."

Ryan Ludwig, Head Coach, Northern Illinois:

"I am pleased to see this conference expand the way it has with the interest of wrestling in mind. The Mid-American Conference has always had a strong and proud tradition and this move shows its commitment to our great sport. The MAC has grown in strength and depth every year and this move certainly solidifies that growth as this conference becomes one of the premier wrestling leagues in the country."

Joel Greenlee, Head Coach, Ohio:

"The Addition of Missouri, Northern Iowa and Old Dominion will make the Mid-American Conference one of the toughest wrestling leagues in the country.  These three teams will also bring more national recognition to the MAC."

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE

Founded in 1946, the Mid-American Conference is an NCAA Division I, 12-member conference that sponsors 23 championships and is one of 11 members of the Football Bowl Subdivison (FBS). With total enrollment of nearly 300,000 students, the league represents institutions of higher learning in six (6) states - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, and Ohio. In addition a 13th school - University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. -- is an affiliate member for football only.

Current MAC schools that hold full membership and the year they joined are -- East Division: University of Akron (1992), Bowling Green State University (1952), University at Buffalo (1998), Kent State University (1951), Miami University (1947), Ohio University (1946). West Division: Ball State University (1973), Central Michigan University (1971), Eastern Michigan University (1971), Northern Illinois University (1975-86, rejoined in 1997), University of Toledo (1950), Western Michigan University (1947).  The University of Massachusetts (2012) competes in the East Division in football only. The conference office is based in Cleveland, Ohio.
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